Academic journal article Linguistic Discovery

On the Expression of Spatial Relations in Ardesen-Laz

Academic journal article Linguistic Discovery

On the Expression of Spatial Relations in Ardesen-Laz

Article excerpt

1. Introduction (1)

As a sister language of Georgian, spoken on the south-eastern coast of the Black Sea, Laz is the only member of the South Caucasian family which is spoken primarily outside of Georgia. The vast majority of its speakers live in Turkey and are bilingual. Laz is a severely endangered language and is used almost exclusively as a means of oral communication among family members. While most Laz older than forty are competent speakers of the language, an increasing number of young Laz are fluent only in Turkish, with a rapid decline of language competence with ethnic Laz younger than twenty (Kutscher 2008).

The data on Ardesen-Laz presented in this article were collected during several fieldwork stays in Turkey. The major part of the data are elicited utterances on the basis of visual stimuli developed by the Language and Cognition Group of the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in Nijmegen, namely the Topological Relations Picture Series (TRPS) and the Picture Series for Positional Verbs (PSPV). These two stimuli are booklets with drawings and photographs showing topological configurations and were tested with 4 fluent speakers of Laz. These data are supplemented by spontaneous elicitations and some overheard utterances during the fieldwork stay, excerpts of spoken narratives collected during an earlier fieldwork trip to Ardecen (published as Kutscher & Genc 1998), and elicited data from some speakers of Laz living in Germany.

2. Some Basic Facts on Ardesen-Laz

Laz as is spoken in Turkey is divided into four dialectal variants which are named after the urban centers around which the variant is spoken. The dialects are named either after the Turkish or the Laz name of the corresponding city (Turkish/Laz: Pazar/Atina, Ardesen/Arfas.eni, Findikli-Arhavi/ Vitse-Arkabi, Hopa/Xopa). The dialects are all of equal sociolinguistic status since a standard variety of Laz has not been established (cf. Kutscher 2001, chapter 1). The variety of Laz discussed here is the one spoken in the city of Ardesen and the villages of the Ardesen region. Although this dialect (Ardesen-Laz) is more or less similar to the other dialects with respect to verb morphology, it differs considerably from other Laz varieties with respect to the case marking system and argument linking rules (cf. Kutscher 2001, chapter 5). While all other dialects of Laz have case marking relating to syntactic relations of core arguments (ergative, nominative/absolutive, dative), Ardesen-Laz does not case-mark core arguments, cf. (4) below.

Laz is basically an SOV language, exhibiting the categories case and number in nominal expressions and a rich inventory of verbal categories with up to eight different morphological slots to be filled in the predicate, cf. table 1.

An example of an inflected verb form is given in (1).

(1) varelebuxedit

var-ele-b-u-xed-i-t

A-B-C-D-E-G-H

NEG-beside-1A-VV-sit-PAST.PFV+non-3rdA-PL

'We did not sit beside him/her/it.'

As table 1 and example (1) show, the information on person and number in Laz predicates is not marked by a single affix but rather results from the interaction of prefixes and suffixes. The latter are portmanteau forms coding tense/aspect/mood and person simultaneously (cf. Mattissen 1995). Concerning the person marking in the predicate, Laz exhibits a characteristic asymmetry. Only 1st person and 3rd person actors as well as 1st person and 2nd person undergoers are marked on the predicate, 2nd person actors and 3rd person undergoers are unmarked but can be deduced paradigmatically. Disregarding this asymmetry in the inflectional paradigm, predicates in Laz are head marking, with up to two arguments being represented in the verbal inflection, i.e. depending on the valence of the verb, verbal inflection is mono- or polypersonal. With polypersonal verbs the finite verb inflects for both actor and undergoer, cf. …

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